The Frye Art Museum doesnt want to voluntarily recognize the Art Workers Union
The Frye Art Museum doesn't want to voluntarily recognize the Art Workers Union Skip Howard/Courtesy of Frye Art Museum
Today we learned that the Frye Art Museum has decided not to voluntarily recognize the Art Workers Union. The snub proves that a business is still a business, baby, no matter how radical or boundary-breaking the art hanging on its walls is. Right now inside the building there's a banner that literally says, "Afflict the comfortable, comfort the afflicted."

Instead of recognizing the security workers' right to unionize, the employees will hold an election, overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, on June 18 to decide whether or not a majority of the employees want to form a union. This allows management a bit more time to try and "inform" (read: dissuade) workers from officially joining. According to security staff, CEO Joseph Rosa personally handed out "informational" packets in plain manila envelopes to the people who were working yesterday in an attempt to get them to vote against their union.

The packet is written in a Q&A format, with (extremely basic) questions like "What is a Union?" and "What is a contract?" The language used is a bit hostile, leaning anti-union. Particularly with this question in reference to how negotiations on wage or benefit changes would shake out with the formation of a union. "Q: Will this slow down improvements? A: It will depend on how cooperative the bargaining parties are."

Ooo—spooky. Stilted. Ominous.

The union, which officially formed last week, is composed of the museum's security staff. At a press conference last Friday, they asked Rosa and the Frye's board of directors to voluntarily recognize AWU so that the two groups could move forward into negotiations with each other.

The workers cited insufficient wages, lack of benefits, and not enough hours as the main drivers behind their decisions to unionize. AGAIN: we live in a city where workers need to make at least $26 per hour to afford a studio apartment. As of today, 11 of the 12 security guards have joined AWU.

In a conversation of AWU's Sander Moberg and Seattle DSA labor organizer Matthew Finnell this afternoon, they informed me that they're hopeful and excited. "We're confident we are going to win," said Moberg. He also said that security workers have been getting support from patrons who are noticing their stickers and reading about the AWU online.

In a statement, the Frye said, "The Museum is pleased to have reached a mutual agreement with the Art Workers Union to hold a secret-ballot election process on June 18, to be supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. All security services staff will be compensated for their time so that they may participate in this important process, with the full support of Museum management."